Deaf Awareness Week

Recognizing the Deaf/HOH Community

Adults using ASL to communicate. Ron Chapple/Getty Images

The last full week in September is Deaf Awareness Week. It is also known as the International Week of the Deaf (or International Week of Deaf People). Originating in 1958 in Rome, Italy, the purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to gather together and provide a united front to draw attention to deaf people, their accomplishments and to promote their rights. 

During this week, many deaf organizations hold activities to celebrate and conduct public information campaigns to educate people about deafness.

Companies and agencies often mark the event, and schools, colleges, and universities hold awareness events. Amusement parks, such as Dollywood in Tennessee, may hold special deaf awareness days. Movie screenings, keynote speakers, instruction in sign language, and hearing screenings may be a part of these events. 

Tips for Communicating with People who are Deaf/ Hard of Hearing

  • Obtain the person's attention before trying to communicate. 
  • Make sure lighting is good; bright enough to see well but not creating shadows on the speaker's face or shining directly in the other person's eyes. 
  • If speaking, do so clearly and at a normal volume. Do not exaggerate mouth movements or facial expressions. If you have a mustache/beard, be sure it is well trimmed. Do not cover your mouth with your hands.
  • Check for understanding. If there is a breakdown in communication, figure out another way to say, spell, or write down the main ideas. 

    Events and Classroom Ideas

    To find an event near you, The National Association for the Deaf  and the International Week of the Deaf websites are a good place to start. 

    For teachers, Deaf Awareness Week is an excellent time to bring awareness into the classroom. Ideas such as teaching about the ear and hearing, famous deaf/hard of hearing people, and even working on fingerspelling and basic signs with the class will all foster awareness.

    For older children, discuss barriers to communication and see how they are able to creatively solve such problems, or attend a theater performance with sign language interpreters.

    Books for Deaf Awareness

    Books with a deaf awareness theme include:

    • Freddy and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson. 
    • The Deaf Musicians by Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs.
    • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.
    • Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard by Nora Ellen Groce.
    • A Loss for Words by Lou Ann Walker.
    • Inside Deaf Culture by Carol A. Padden and Tom L. Humphries.

    Movies/TV Series for Deaf Awareness

    • Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story(1979)
    • Tin Man (1983)
    • Children of a Lesser God (1986)
    • Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)
    • Breaking Through (1996)
    • Dead Silence (1997)
    • Sound and Fury (2000)
    • Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye (2002)
    • I See the Crowd Roar: the Story of William Dummy Hoy (2007)
    • Switched at Birth (2011)


    World Deaf Culture Films, TV Movies, and TV Series (2011). IMDb. Retrieved September 9, 2015 from

    Updated September 9, 2015 by Melissa Karp, Au.D

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